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MCAT Writing Sample

The writing sample consists of two essays each one completed in a timed 30 minute session. Each essay is a response to a given statement, for example, "True leadership leads by example rather than by command". Your response will be graded by how well you respond to three tasks:

  • Task One: Thesis Provide your interpretation or explanation of the statement.
  • Task Two: Antithesis Offer a concrete example that illustrates a point directly opposite to the one expressed or implied by the statement.
  • Task Three: Conflict Resolution Explain how the conflict between the viewpoint expressed in the statement and the viewpoint described in the second task might be resolved.

AAMC has published a list of possible test statements for use in 2000.

Two graders will score your essay independently on a 1 to 6 point scale (see below). If these scores differ by more than 1 point, a third (senior) grader determines the score.

Score Explanation
6 Fulfills all three tasks; major ideas are substantially developed; shows clarity, depth and complexity of thought; uses language in a sophisticated manner.
5 Fulfills all three tasks; major ideas are well developed; shows clarity of thought, with some depth or complexity; demonstrates strong control of vocabulary and sentence structure.
4 Addresses all three tasks; major ideas are adequately developed; shows clarity of thought, and may show evidence of depth or complexity; the essay is coherent with some focus; demonstrates adequate control of vocabulary and sentence structure.
3 May neglect or distort one or more of the tasks or present only minimal treatment of the topic; major ideas are somewhat developed; shows clarity of thought but may be simplistic; the essay is coherent but may not be focused; while some mechanical errors may be present, some control of vocabulary and sentence structure is evident.
2 Serious neglect or distortion of one or more of the tasks; problems with clarity or complexity of thought; the essay may lack coherence or integration; there may be numerous errors in mechanics, usage, or sentence structure.
1 Demonstrate a lack of understanding of the writing assignment; serious problems in organization; there may be so many errors that the ideas are hard to follow

Your four scores (two readings of two essays) are added to produce a score in the range 4-24. The numerical score is converted to the scaled alphabetical score ranging from J to T. Generally J-M correspond to the lowest quartile, Q-T the top quartile, with a median near O.

AAMC will additionally send each medical school that you apply to a photocopy of your writing sample. Thus this writing sample will probably be joined with your application when the admission committee considers your application.


Do all three tasks. An essay, perfect in every way, that fails to do the three tasks demonstrates your inability to read directions and will receive a low grade.

Do "prewriting": make notes before writing complete sentences. It is suggested that you spend 5 of your 30 minutes "outlining" and thinking before you start to write.

Your essay is a first draft. It is important to write the best essay you can in about 25 minutes. Do not polish until all three tasks have been completed. Feel free cross out, make insertions, etc. (It is suggested that you write on every other line to make the final edit easier.)

There is no right answer. Your answer will be judged on the above criteria, not on political (or other) correctness.

Specific examples improve essays. You will often be required to supply an example for the second task, but other examples may strengthen your essay.

Mechanical errors will count. Proper usage, sentence structure, and yes, even spelling and legibility will affect your score. These are secondary issues. Try to get them right the first time, and hope to have time for a final proofread.

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